02 July 2012

Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis (1991)

Having recently finished the book 'In Harm's Way', I fired up the made for TV movie, Mission of the Shark.

This tells the story of the USS Indianapolis.  The importance of the USS Indianapolis is this: it delivered components of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan to close the War in the Pacific.  What happened to this ship next is the real story.

Many of you could already have a general idea of the sinking of the Indianapolis and the aftermath.  How many of you have seen Jaws?  Quint's story is a fairly accurate to the real events.

En route to Letye, the Indianapolis is sunk by a Japanese submarine.  Lucky strikes were made, as the torpedoes cause massive destruction to the Indianapolis.  The order to abandon was given moments after the strikes; and the Indianapolis went down moments later.

Now, under normal(?) circumstances, being relatively close major commands, rescue should have been quick.  Through various mis-communications and different interpretations of orders, the survivors of the Indianapolis were left to float in the Pacific Ocean for three and a half days.  With the speed of the sinking, supplies were sparse, leaving many of the men without water and food.

To make matters worse, sharks begin to attack the survivors, leading to what has been called the largest number of shark attacks in history.

Eventually, the crew is rescued.  Sadly though, the captain, Charles McVay is brought up on charges for the loss of his ship.  The Navy blames McVay for not zig zagging (a maneuver designed to throw off targeting).  McVay is initially found guilty, but in 2001, McVay's record was cleared of all wrongdoing as the only officer to be court martialed for the loss of their ship during WWII.

Now to the movie itself.

The movie stars Stacey Keach as Capt. McVay.  Overall the movie was accurate to the original incident.  There were a few mistakes such as how the Indianapolis sank and the first appearance of the sharks.  I also get the impression the movie compressed the timeline a bit.  Also, the movie states they were in the water for five days, when it was only three and a half.

I liked it.  It brings to light a piece of history not all of us are familiar with, outside of Quint's speech in Jaws.  Worth a watch, IMO.

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